Graphic Novel Round-Up: Shotguns & Sorcery
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Stormwatch: Team Achilles (Wright / Portacio): In the shadow of the Authority, a new Stormwatch team comes together to handle superhuman menaces. With so many notable disasters stemming from superhuman intervention, this new (and aptly-named) team is created to be part of the 'checks and balances' system. Using technology and training, a half-dozen 'ordinary' people are able to take on Authority-level bad guys (and even the Authority themselves).
This core plot is a great idea. And Wright shows that he's well up to crafting the sort of complex, political storylines that make it work. The writing isn't perfect - the tone and language slips too frequently into action-movie-badass for my liking. Snappy, alpha male dialogue is a good place ot visit, but you don't want to live there. Similarly, the reliance on science magic to solve problems is a one-trick pony, and doesn't need to be repeated quite as frequently as it is.
The weakness is the art. Portacio drags the reader back into the less-than-halcyon early days of Image comics - big boobs, rippling pecs, awkward facial expressions, strangely padded masks and ginormous guns. Not quite Rob Leifeld, but skimming dangerously close. Every half-dozen pages has a brilliant panel - a detailed facial expression, or some graphic rendering of a nifty explosion. But the rest is too often goofy - strangely imbecilic dead-eyed stares, atop anabolic wet dream physiques.
Thorgal: Child of the Stars and The Three Elders of Aran (Rosinski / Van Hamme): Another belated English translation from Cinebook, the Thorgal series is a long-running fantasy title from Belgium. The English translations are not in the same sequential order, having been hand-picked to capture the new audience.
The series is absolutely stunning. Child of the Stars takes place during Thorgal's youth, and involves a series of madcap adventures straight out of a children's book - with the appropriately fantastic illustrations of winged cats, dwarves and pegasi. The Three Elders of Aran is more adult - barbarian adventures out of Robert E. Howard - with the appropriately melodramatic sword & sorcery stylings.
Thorgal has a fairly depressing life (nothing ever seems to go right), but keeps struggling forwards. The art captures this perfectly - the occasional humorous moment is brightly colored, but most of the adventures take place in stark, grim colors - dark blue nights, mud-brown underworlds or blood-red-tinted shadows. It is also worth noting that the type is fantastic - both in the speech-bubbles and in the actions ('Splash!' is my favorite).
As with the other Cinebook translations, there have been a few modifications for the 'sensibilities of the English-speaking audience'. Many sexually frustrated young readers will simply have to turn to Manga instead.